Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to make shaped & lined patch pockets (with a few tailored touches!)

When I was working on my Sew for Victory jacket, I was quite tickled with how my lined patch pockets turned out, and I've used more-or-less the same technique ever since. It's based on tailoring methods for patch pockets. I can't claim credit for inventing these steps by any means, but like anything, I tweaked the process until I had a series of steps I really liked, so I wanted to share how I do it!

I love this method for so many reasons! There's no hint of lining poking out at the side of the pockets, it has a nice professional-looking finish on the inside, and the curves just come out nicer than some other methods I've tried that involve lining. Winner in my book!


Patch pockets are awesome. Cute, casual, fun on retro dresses, skirts and aprons, and super practical. You can make them in contrasting fabric, adorn them with embroidery, rick rack or more. They can be classy or kitschy, whatever your little heart desires! When I'm home it's often where I keep my cell phone and sometimes a measuring tape or keys, and when I'm wearing something without them, I curse and wish I had them.

The tutorial I'm sharing today results in a really nicely-finished pocket with a few little touches pulled in from tailoring. It has a self-fabric facing at the top part of the pocket inside, so you peek in and see the same fabric (especially handy if you're adding them to a gathered skirt, as they stick out open a bit!), and then lining fabric to cut down bulk for the rest of the pocket. It's all created in a way that makes sure the lining doesn't peek out on the right side. Finally, while you can topstich the pocket in place, I'm going to show you how to invisibly slip stitch it onto your garment. So let's get to it!


  • paper and pencil for tracing
  • fashion fabric for pocket and facing
  • lining fabric (rayon bemberg, poly lining, or lightweight cotton like voile or batiste all would be good choices... but if you're going with contrasting for fun, why not try a cute cotton print?)
  • interfacing of your choice



First off, you can either use pocket pattern pieces from your pattern of choice or create one yourself!

Inspired by a few 1940s and 50s patterns (most recently this New Look sundress pattern), I went with tulip-shaped pockets and drafted the shape freehand, tracing it onto tissue paper. I used the children's method of drawing a heart: I folded the piece of paper in half so each side was the same.

If you create your own pattern, just keep in mind your seam allowance so you don't accidentally make it too small. I used 1/4" as my seam allowance. And for reference, the width of my pocket piece was about 8" and the height about 8 1/2".


Once you have your pattern piece cut out, create a piece for your facing, which will be at the top of the inside of your pocket. I just created it by tracing from my pocket piece.

The facing can be as deep as you'd like, but at least 1 - 2" or so (not including seam allowances) is a good starting point. If your pocket is shaped with a big curve or two like mine, make sure that length extends below the lowest point of the curve like I did.

Don't forget to add your seam allowance at the bottom. This is where you'll sew the facing to the lining.


Time for your lining piece. The lining piece will be the size of your pocket less the size of the facing piece, plus a seam allowance. Make sense? Both the facing and the lining have a seam allowance since you sew them to each other.


But wait, here's the most important part!

You can do this when you cut your facing and lining piece or after, but don't forget: trim about 1/16" off the outer edges of your lining and facing pieces. They should be just slightly smaller than your main pocket piece. This means you'll have to slightly stretch your facing and your lining pieces when sewing to the main pocket piece, but it's the secret to the no-show lining and clean finish on the edges of your pocket. I promise!


Now you can cut out your pieces. Cut your facing and main pocket pieces from your fashion fabric, and cut your lining piece from your lining fabric. A tip I learned from Liz and have since seen Sarai from Colette Patterns recommend when using silk: if you choose a slippery lining fabric like I did, use a fabric stabilizing spray to tame that bad boy. Trust me (and them), it's genius. Genius!

Almost assembly time. First though, I added about 1" of fusible weft interfacing to the upper edges of my facing piece to help the pocket not stretch out over time. I caught it in the seam allowance, but if you have heavier fabric and are using fusible, you may want to trim it clear of that.


Now, assembly! With right sides together, pin your facing to your pocket piece like I did already above. You should only have to stretch the facing ever so slightly when pinning it together. Using whatever seam allowance you established (1/4" for me), sew only the shaped top edges together, not the sides. Press, trim and grade your seams, clipping inside corners closely but without clipping into your stitch line. (I totally didn't grade my seams.)

(Sorry this is a blurry photo, it was the only one I got of this step.)


Pin the lining piece to the facing piece, right sides together. Leave at least 3" open at the very center. This center opening is how you'll turn the pocket right side out at the end.


Sew the seam on either side of the opening.


Trim and press the seam towards the lining, including over the opening. It'll make it easier to close it up at the end.

(Note: you'll see below I actually had pressed the curved top edge at this point, though it's not necessary to do it yet.)


Time to sew the lining/facing side to the pocket side, which will close up the pocket except for that opening. Right sides facing, pin it all together, carefully stretching the lining to get it to fit the pocket. I like to pin the sides of the facing first, then the center bottom of the pocket, and then go up each side, stretching carefully. It may take a bit of work, so lots of pins will help keep everything in place. When it doubt, hand baste after you pin!


It's almost impossible to photograph, but at the very upper edge where you sewed the pocket and the facing together along the curved edge, when you're pinning it, just slightly roll this seam towards the facing side. This will make certain that when your pocket is right side out, the seam isn't peeking out at the upper corners.


 It may help to see what this looks like once you've sewn it, to clarify:


After pinning, your pocket will curl up slightly off the table because the lining side is slightly smaller. Don't worry, this is exactly what you want to see!


Now, starting at the top edge of your pocket, sew down, around and back up to the other side.


Trim your pocket seam allowance, and clip around your curves, either snipping into or taking out little triangles... I snipped this time. Press the lining seam allowance towards the inside of the pocket lining (I don't bother trimming the lining seam allowance).


At the very top edge where the facing and pocket meet, clip that seam so that you can press the facing towards the inside of the pocket, too, and trim that seam close to the stitch line for a crisp point.


Through the hole that you left open earlier, turn the pocket right side out carefully. Yep, it'll look like a mess for a little bit.


With a finger or two inside the pocket opening, gently poke your curves into position. Because of all your careful prep work, this should actually be pretty easy, unlike other methods where I've sometimes been cursing up a storm at this point because my "gentle curve" is more like 6 or 7 little flat lines. That's in part because your lining is a little smaller, so those seam edges won't show on the front at all, so everything just naturally rounds itself out in a much more civilized fashion. No cursing necessary.

See how the seam favors the back and not the front of the pocket at the top edge? That's because you rolled that edge towards the facing side when pinning. Use a point presser (knitting needles work too) to coax your points into position at the top of the shaped edges.


Gently press your pocket to set everything into position. You'll notice when you do this that the pocket fabric rolls towards the lining side a bit just like I said it would. No peekaboo seams for you! Pretty nifty, especially if you're planning to use a contrasting lining fabric!


Oh, don't be an idiot like me: once you're done admiring your work, close up that hole you left on the inside right now, or you'll be trying to jam Steam-a-Seam Lite into it when it's pinned and already halfway sewn onto your garment...enough said.

Now you should have a nicely curved, professionally lined and faced patch pocket!


(This is the point where you might be saying, "But wait, that's embroidered and you're almost done with the tutorial and you haven't even mentioned it yet...!" You'll just have to wait until I show off the final garment to hear more about it!)

Pin your pockets to your garment. Feel free to use topstitching to attach it to your garment if you'd like, or invisibly attach it with slip stitching like I did. Here's how.

Starting at the upper corner, take your threaded needle through the inside edge of the pocket, so you can't see it from the front. This also buries your knot on the back of the pocket and not inside your garment, in case you're particular enough that it would matter to you... I do this by habit, not because I'm that particular. ;)


Take a tiny stitch through the garment fabric with your thread and needle. Continuing to keep your stitches juuuust on the inside of the pocket, tack in place a few times at the corner for stability.


Then carry along the edge of the pocket, taking small stitches through the inside edge of the pocket and the garment below it, all the way around. Really make sure the stitches are small so you've got the pocket nice and attached to your garment. Don't pull your thread too tight or the pocket will pucker. I like to take a few stitches, then very gently tug on my thread to snug things up. (I do the same thing when sewing together knitting, by the way.)


When you get to the other corner make sure to take a few stitches for security, and knot off. You're done, and now have a pretty professional looking, adorable pocket on your garment!


And when you take a peek inside the pocket, you'll see the self-facing and your lovely lining. Nifty, huh?


Hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. It's one of many ways to create patch pockets, but it's a nice method to have in your sewing arsenal, I think!


Interested in seeing more of the garment my pockets made it onto? I'll be sharing it soon! :)



Monday, June 24, 2013

Lumberjill squirrels hat

Friends, it's been awhile since I've completed a knitting project, and I have sewing to blame. While I've been busy filling out my wardrobe, my knitting has suffered, which is unusual for me and a side effect of sewing I don't like! So I may cool down the sewing a slight bit so I can focus on my (new) current knitting project. After I wipe a couple of projects off my plate that involve tutorials, that is... stay tuned!

That aside, I knew I wanted to knit my friend Elisa something for her birthday. She's an extremely generous person, a talented knitter and masterful quilter. And by masterful, we're talking she once sewed a quilt of the London Tube system that is accurate. I know!

I knew I wanted it to be a hat, but it couldn't be any old hat.


(Do I look like a lumberjill in this hat and the plaid shirt or what? Try taking photos for a winter hat when it's summer and the outdoors are all lush and full. So we'll pretend it's actually too cold to take photos outside, deal? This one's for my Australian readers who are dipping into winter!)

Now, I said this wasn't any old hat, so here's the story. Elisa isn't a huge fan of squirrels. She and her husband live a neighborhood over from us, and their street is much more tree-lined than ours, so they have a lot more squirrels than us. When I saw the new Squirrels hat pattern on Knitty, I knew that's what I was going to knit... with a twist.


Two out of seven squirrels say, "Ouch! Who dropped that &*^&%#$! acorn on my head?!"

Squirrel #1:


And squirrel #2:


How did I do it? I transferred the chart into Excel, and made a few tweaks. I turned the hands down, the ears down, and lowered the acorn. I wanted the eyes of the 'bonked' squirrels to be Xs instead of one knit stitch, so I omitted their eyes and stitched them on later. The hat is knit in the round but because of the two lowered acorns, I did those in intarsia. They're small, so I just twisted the yarn and carried it back to the beginning of the acorn in each successive row. That just took a little extra flattening when blocking.


When knitting a hat in the round, many people use a 16" circular needle. I hate small diameter circulars though, they make my hands cramp up. So I opt to split my stitches between two circular needles, as I've probably mentioned before. There are lots of tutorials online, but I think this is the one I used back in the day. It's an easy technique—a bit fiddly for the first couple of rows, so if you find it all flopping around, try putting a pillow on your lap.


This pattern uses fingering weight at 6.25 stitches an inch, well looser than I generally knit fingering weight at, but I kept true to the pattern (fighting the urge to re-work it at a tighter gauge, ha). The result is nice and springy and light. No complaints on the pattern either, it was very straightforward.

Now if you knit with two circulars at a looser gauge and with two colors, you may find the stitches between your two needles get loose and crazy looking. That's okay, because you don't want them super tight or you'll end up with a tight float between the needles and that can't be fixed. You can totally fix it if they're too loose, though.

Take a look at the difference blocking made below!

(Note: I realized the before and after were actually the opposite sides of the needles once I examined the photo,
but both sides looked the same, trust me.)

Moral of the story: block your knitting. It really does make a difference.

Anyway, I'm wildly thrilled with this hat. Oh, how I love novelty patterns!


And I also discovered I've been missing out on something. I've avoided beanie or toque style hats as I almost always have some sort of curl or roll in my bangs. What never occurred to me until this photoshoot was I could wear this style behind my bangs like I sometimes do with berets, especially if the hat isn't too tight as to crush my hair. This opens up a whole new world of hats for me in winter! There are plenty of cute vintage and modern winter ski cap patterns!

Worthy of an apr├Ęs-ski moment, no?


This hat has now gone on to live with its new owner, Elisa, but you better believe you'll be seeing more novelty hats from me in the future!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In which I confess my shoe love while working on a house project

True confessions, Karen style: I like shoes. A lot.

Yesterday, I posted a photo on Instagram of my shoe collection. Which up until yesterday, had been (embarrassingly) mostly stacked on one another on the floor of my closet. So I finally bought a shoe organizer at Target and put it together yesterday afternoon.

I posted a photo once I filled it up with shoes, and then we went out to the side of our house to work on this:


With our house came two beds covered in lava rocks (insert huge groan here), one being inside our small yard (which we haven't dealt with yet, more groans), and one on the alley side of our house. It really was an eye sore... pieces of at least three types of weed barrier pulling up and showing, plastic garden edging that wasn't tucked in fully any longer, and covered in weeds. At least the one in the yard has some nice flowers in it.

We finally we came up with the idea of doing a couple of layers of cement blocks from Home Depot as a defining border. They match some that are in one of our flower beds in front of our house, and also act as a border so cars don't accidentally drive up on it in the winter when you can't see the alley for the bed because of snow. Then we'll add a bunch of mulch and plant a few shrubs. We're not going too crazy because we literally almost never see that side of the house, it's in the alley, and we have to send a hose all the way from the other side of the house to water it. We wanted simple.

I can happily say after last night, part two (part one was weeding) is now complete! Unfortunately I didn't get a before photo, but trust me, this is a vast improvement. I think this modest look will do our 1950s ranch proud.


By the way, it will eventually extend to that small stem wall sticking off the side of the house you see in the distance (between the day lilies, a peony you can't see, and a shrub in the front yard at the far end of the photo). We'll have to transplant one of the lilies as it's too close to the edge of the alley for us to get the stones in, so until fall we just made the little wall curve back around to the house instead of go straight, since there wasn't room. 

But back to shoes. While we were working on that, people were going bananas on Instagram over my shoes. I aired my dirty laundry (well, shoes) there, so I'm airing it here too. I rarely wear shoes out to the point where I have to get rid of a pair, so some of them I've had quite a long time. There's even two 40s pairs in there that my mom recently gave me, and she personally wore them in the 80s.

And my confession now:


I swear it didn't look like that much when they were in the closet. What can I say, I really freaking love shoes. And now you have proof.

I've always thought I had a much smaller wardrobe and less accessories than many bloggers I follow, but shoes are another story. I could get rid of all my jewelry, carry one purse forever more, cut my wardrobe in half (maybe not my knitted sweaters, heh heh), but so long as I had several pair of shoes, I'd be happy. :)

What do you love most in your wardrobe?


Friday, June 14, 2013

Finished: polka dot dirndl for summer

Glad you like my new eyeglasses! Of course, you'll see I'm wearing my vintage ones in this post. I go back and forth. ;) By the way, I've had a few requests for a tutorial on my hairstyle in that post. I may work something up but in the meantime, you can watch this first part of this Lisa Freemont Street video for a 40s scarf updo to evening glamour to get the gist!


I finished this skirt at least a month ago kind of slapdash-style, and it even went to the UK with me. It's a basic dirndl skirt using Simplicity 4496, from the 1940s (but undated).


The construction is pretty easy: it's basically two gathered rectangles and a waistband. In fact, Gertie did a tutorial on making your own gathered skirt from scratch several years ago if you're looking for a similar pattern.

I'm in the mood for these fun and flouncy skirts! More roomy and breezy than an a-line and easy to wear with a casual blouse. You can even dare to mix patterns like I did.

(Yes by the way, my blouse really does snap up the front that way, I'm not missing any.)

I do have a tip for my fellow short-waisted + busty friends out there: I find that you really need a good, uplifting bra when wearing this style of skirt (check out my old 40s bust silhouette post for tips—I need to actually add a couple of bra updates to that). Somehow with the gathers extending out at the waist instead of a plain flat front, it's really easy for your bust and your waist to creep closer together than you'd like, unless your girls are as high and proud as you can get them. That'll keep you from feeling dumpy in this style. Just sayin'.


The fabric I used was in my stash forever and it's a lightweight cotton blend, but I discovered something terrible: the damn polka dots are, I don't know, painted on? Not silk-screened. Or at least not silk-screened well. I managed to wash and dry the fabric fine, press the fabric fine, press the seams fine, press everything and its brother fine, but when I was pressing around my zipper I smeared a few #@$%^&% polka dots. Aaaargh! Fortunately it's subtle, I really had to try to get them to show up on a photo.


But I can forgive the stupid smeary polka dots because the pockets are so cute. I liked the look of the super deep patch pockets on View 2 but didn't have enough fabric for them, so instead I took the slash pockets from the Sewaholic Cambie pattern and added them to this skirt. (By the way, this was my inspiration to do the same type of thing on my Refashioners skirt!)

On a gathered skirt like this they stick out to the sides in a very cute manner.


 Kind of like the original pattern artwork!


The only slightly awkward thing about adding the Cambie slash pockets was that I also wanted a lapped side zipper, like I put in pretty much everything. Things around the pocket opening and the zipper lap can get funky if you do that combo, but it's possible if you hand pick the zipper and your fabric isn't too thick... I wouldn't go heavier than medium-weight cotton.

I actually should have omitted the first 'pick' on the pocket as it closes off the very bottom of the open edge of the pocket as you can see below, but it's no big deal.


I topped off the waistband with a beautiful vintage button. I was going to handwork the buttonhole but after the smeared polka dot episode, meh. I didn't bother.


I'm going to live in this skirt this summer. Well this and several siblings of it that don't yet exist but will. I'm loving dirndls right now. Patterns, novelty prints, plain... I better get sewing!

What will you be living in this summer?


1940s dirndl skirt: made by me
1950s H Bar C western shirt: somewhere or other
Bakelite bangles and earrings: miscellaneous
hair flower: Ruth Nore Designs
bow flats: Mel by Melissa


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